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WE Fest gets old for some

It's an exciting time for many of the area's country music fans. Once again, Detroit Lakes-bound WE Festers will be traveling through Wadena and other surrounding communities this weekend with the intent of experiencing what is being hailed as one of the country's top country music festivals.

WE Fest attendance remains strong; approximately 50,000 people are expected to pour into Detroit Lakes' Soo Pass Ranch this year. But lately, I've noticed a recurring trend: After so many years of attending the popular festival, some people decide that they've had enough.

Some patrons I've spoken with lately who have given up on WE Fest seem sad they're not going this year, but also relieved.

"I don't want to fight the crowds," "Those campgrounds aren't comfortable," and "It's just too darn hot" are a few of the reasons folks have given me for putting away their cowboy hats this year. Plus, snagging a ticket to see some of the nation's top country music artists light up the stage is an expensive endeavor - one that many people can no longer afford in this economy.

I think age is also a major factor in this scenario. Ex-WE Festers may not want to admit it, but the older you get, the less accessible the country music festival seems to be. Walking around the event site in the hot sun for an entire day can wear a person out.

Then again, there are those who knew from the get-go that WE Fest wasn't their style.

Many of my family members like to tell me the story of their 1987 trip to WE Fest, which at that time held the theme, "Heaven in '87". As the story goes, the group was disrupted by everything from inebriated bystanders to uncomfortable heat as they strolled through the ranch. The punch line of the story is that at one point, one of them said, "If this is 'Heaven in '87' it is the closest to hell I'll ever get."

I find my family's case to be a rather extreme and comical one, but it shows that a day at WE Fest is more than enough for some folks.

But for many of the die-hard fans out there, I suspect WE Fest is more than just a solid concert lineup; it's tradition. And it's not always easy to let traditions slip away.

While thousands will be emerged in the complete WE Fest experience this weekend, I know of at least a few others who will be perfectly content with snagging some shade, kicking back and relaxing at home.